Robert Bense

Robert BenseRobert Bense grew up on a farm in southern Illinois. He has written poetry since 1986 and his work has appeared in many magazines, including Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Salmagundi, Shenandoah, Epoch and the New Republic. He lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, with his airedale, Rufus, and maintains a small formal garden. Readings in Ordinary Time is his first published collection.

Books by Robert Bense for the Backwaters Press

Readings in Ordinary Time Readings in Ordinary Time, by Robert Bense

Author: Robert Bense
Format: Paperback, 100 pages
ISBN: 0978578287
Published: September 2007

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Critical Praise for Readings in Ordinary Time

Robert Bense is a poet of “music across great distance.” His horizons are vast, his voice is haunting. Readings in Ordinary Time deepens each time you open it—wide-ranging, self-questioning, fully aware of the dangers of knowledge, uncompromising in its search for knowledge. This is extraordinary work.
• D. Nurkse
Whiting Writers’ Award winner

Location, location, location, the title of one of the later poems in Readings in Ordinary Time proclaims, echoing the mantra of realtors and small business. But this book’s business is with prime realty that expands from the hollyhock in the dooryard to the Straits of Messina, from the Dallas 7-11 to Liu Ling’s cell “in the garden of the universe.” In what recent poetry book do we find such an intriguing geography, as well as an eclectic, eccentric, and engaging company that includes Machiavelli, Tadeusz Rosewicz and Sainte-Colombe? In a voice we come not just to trust but count on, Robert Bense invites us to read this world, this terra incognita, in all its nuances and mysteries. This is a deeply spiritual book, its serious music/changing keys, bringing to our ordinary time extraordinary powers of language.
• Christopher Bursk
Author of The Improbable Swerving of Atoms; Donald Hall Prize in Poetry

Poems from Bense’s Readings in Ordinary Time

Flat Out

Trucked your U-Haul
up the Great Divide.
Over and down.
Way back on the Garden State
you lost a dirt bike.
And Cincinnati was from nowhere
but safe at least
since nothing happens there
Ragtime, swing, the blues, jazz
follow rivers like weather.
Manifest destiny, you say, runs
east to west.
So in St. Louis
you catch something.
Burn and foam later
taking a piss in Kansas.
You boiled over
at Donner Pass.
American iron. Plastic hubcaps.
Last gas.
Never get caught
too far from a deli.
In winter yet.
You head on toward that blue
and white diaphanous
through purple haze, eight straight
lanes each way free
to the last authentic city.
Fingers tapping out
happy trails.
A place for ducking out.
Packing it in. Jumping off.
Winter in July.
In the rearview mirror
five days of stubble,
a grim set mouth. A smile
breaking through.
The continent’s slow fade
into North Beach.
The sharp Pacific drop.
Sun in the eyes, the one way
fare, sunset or last main chance.

Snow in the Forecast

I’m number 23 in the
12 items or less line:
8 or less doubles past saltines,
extends into produce. The man
in front of me has herring, sour
cream, 6 limes. We don’t know
each other but I have olives.
Except for me, all will pay
by check.

An age of ice recalled in the cells:
a sleet-grey wind lashes out
of the northwest, a wood thrush
close-in, wolves on the hill
above everyone’s cave-
the five pheasant eggs pickled
in the shell, gone; the last bear’s
claw in aspic, gnawed and done.
Snow already six feet deep.


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